In his first horror movie, Drive director Refn puts Elle Fanning through hell as a young model in LA. Ahead of the films premiere at Cannes, we go behind the scenes
In May 2015, in the basement of a haunted house in Silver Lake, Los Angeles, one woman chases another with murderous intent. Under deep red light, she wields a poker. At a staircase, they struggle. The second woman falls, holding a gleaming Psycho-style kitchen knife. There is silence.
Lets do one more. A few feet away, Nicolas Winding Refn looks up from scene 118, take four of his film, The Neon Demon. The crew unfreeze, a dozen figures in headphones. The women wander back to where they had started. The poker was carried by actor Abbey Lee, the knife by body double Joanna Bennett. Lee wears a white trouser suit, Bennett a ruched white dress. She is identical in every way to the films star, Elle Fanning, who watches nearby: same dress, same long blonde hair, the same tiny coloured jewels around their eyes. For a moment, they stand beside each other.
Refn, 44, cleanish-cut in a black track top, gets up to stretch his legs. He waits until Bennett and Lee are ready for another take. Then, in lieu of action, he calls out: Violence, motherfuckers!
Refns accent is transatlantic. Although Danish, he spent his adolescence in New York with his filmmaker parents. The Neon Demon will be his 10th movie. While his early career was a touch-and-go affair, his 2011 crime thriller Drive with its brooding star turn from Ryan Gosling ensured a high profile for his stylised, divisive films. On blogs and social media, there is already excitement about his new one. It is a horror movie, something he has never done before. And Refn always promises something singular: an event, a highwire act.
Buzz has not translated to budget. Reports in Denmark put that of The Neon Demon at about $7m (5m), exactingly low by Hollywood standards. The schedule is tight. This is the end of the fourth week of a six-week shoot.
Fanning is called upstairs to shoot publicity stills in the house, an eccentric Mediterranean-revival villa called the Paramour Mansion. Seventeen and gangly, she is boundlessly sunny. The phrase super neat comes up a lot. Although the cast includes other well-known names Keanu Reeves, Christina Hendricks Fanning will be the face of the film. She seems unfazed. Fanning appeared in her first movie, I Am Sam, at three years old; she is now the veteran of more than 30 others including JJ Abrams Super 8 and Sofia Coppolas Somewhere. Her world, with its photoshoots and award-ceremony dresses borrowed from designers, is close enough to her characters a fashion model new to LA for this to feel familiar, too.
To read more copy this link into a new tab: http://www.theguardian.com/us